Foster H. Campbell

Date of Death

October 28, 2018

Fos Campbell of Carpinteria passed away on October 28, 2018, following the death of his beloved wife of 75 years, Dorothy, by just three months. Fos grew up on his uncle’s farm in Ohio, then in the little lakeside town of St. Joseph, Michigan where he loved to sail with his Cousin Don and his fellow Sea Scouts. He went to Iowa State University, met Dorothy, and graduated with a degree in physics just in time to join the Navy and get sent to England as an electronics technician in 1941, before the US had even entered WW II. He crossed the North Atlantic on a Norwegian freighter in a convoy haunted by German U-boats, one of which famously torpedoed and sank the Rueben James , near Fos’s ship, the first US ship sunk in the war. Military service made a huge impression on Fos as he was in the thick of things as a very young man with the big responsibility of running the radar systems on aircraft carriers. He sailed on the carrier Block Island in the Atlantic and by the end of the war was on the carrier Hancock in the South Pacific, where he lost many shipmates to a Kamakazi attack.

When the war ended, and now married to Dorothy, Fos went to Harvard Business School on the GI Bill then moved his young family to California in 1947, settling in Pasadena. He went to work in a succession of company start-ups capitalizing on the new war-time technologies. Companies like Helipot, Beckman Industries, Statham Labs, and Litton Industries; where he combined his technical knowledge with his love of people and became a successful sales manager. When he felt he had been cheated out of very lucrative stock options by one of his (later notorious) bosses, he vowed to never work for anyone again and started his own company in 1962: High Vacuum Electronics. The products manufactured were vacuums witch gear used in medical, test, and communications equipment. In 1968 he moved the family and the company, now called Kilovac, to Carpinteria where the company occupied a lemon-packing shed on Linden Avenue. Fos loved to tell the story of how people anxious to go to work for the one of the first tech businesses in the area would form long lines up Linden Ave. waiting to apply for a job. Fos’s loyalty to the many people who worked for him and who helped make the company a success was best expressed by his granting of company stock to all of his employees, representing more than a third of the value of company. Many who worked at Kilovac later went on to start and work at Gigavac, also in Carpinteria and also a strong advocate for sharing the company’s success with employees.

Fos was one of the original members of Carpinteria Rotary founded in 1973. He also helped with the AEA Private Industry Council, SB Scholarship Foundation, Carpinteria Education Foundation and the Friends of the Library. He was honored by the City of Carpinteria in 2010 for his contributions in diversifying the local economy with over $150 million of payroll paid out over the 25 years of Kilovac operations.

Fos loved his family more than anything and was surrounded in his final hours by his children, Doug, Kathy (Bressler), Don, and Steve, many of his seven grandkids, and his extended family of daughter-in-laws and caregivers. He is survived by four great-grandchildren as well.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, November 3, from 10 am to noon at Girls Inc. in Carpinteria for both Fos and Dorothy.


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